Wednesday 1 October 2008

The case for mercy killing

14st 7lb, 9lb or 10lb, according to taste, the LTCB’s electronic scales having evidently been turned out as a side-line by the company best known for creating the ERNIE machine to make the monthly premium bonds draw; 4.8 units of alcohol yesterday; 1,223 days left; Bog Standard.

The day started badly with the discovery that some technical glitch at was denying me access to this blog, but I was soon mollified by the discovery that it had deprived the world of Wife in the North, too. My spirits rose even further when I remembered that it was the first day of the final quarter of the year, and I could despatch some entirely unjustified bills to those companies still crazed enough to retain my services as a PR adviser / licensed jester.

After lunch I did my good deed for the day, which was going to the Post Office to get the LTCB’s car taxed. She had offered some implausible explanation of why she had failed to do this online, as any sensible person would, but I am pretty sure that a keen desire to support her local post office did not come into it. Her local post office is, in any event, already closed and boarded up, and I had to traipse all the way to the remaining one in the centre of Chester to make the transaction.

Something about these places always reminds me of Soviet Russia, or at any rate the depressing picture of Soviet Russia presented by the western media. Perhaps this was as distorted as Pravda’s famous piece on Newcastle many years ago, which featured a picture of flat-capped pensioners standing patiently outside a Greggs Seconds Shop, which sold day-old bakery goods at bargain prices, captioned “Long bread queues in Britain”. But then again, given that the BBC for one was consistently and vociferously on Russia’s side throughout the cold war, probably not.

I joined the long queue zigzagging towards the counter at 2.17, when there were 16 people in front of me – well, I say people, but most of them looked like cadavers that had been incompetently stuffed and unconvincingly re-animated by a crazed amateur taxidermist. Owing to the surprising absence of screens blasting us with advertisements, no doubt as the result of some technical malfunction, I had a choice between staring at these freaks of nature and looking reflectively at the wooden war memorial nailed high up on the wall. By the time I left, I had more or less learned it off by heart. Each transaction seemed to take something as close to forever as made no difference, and only three of the seven counters were apparently manned. I had considerable freedom to reflect on the irony of being a bloke who had found a girlfriend when what he really wanted was a PA, and then been conned into becoming her PA instead. The whole process was further delayed by a woman giving the superannuated robot behind the counter a piece of her mind about the ridiculous length of the queue yesterday, which had meant that she was unable to tax her car and had felt obliged to take a taxi into work today rather than driving. Showing, perhaps, an exaggerated respect for the technical detail of the law. At any rate the LTCB must have been relying on a rather more liberal interpretation when she cheerfully drove off this morning.

I would have been out of the place within half an hour, by my watch, if only I hadn’t been so worn down by the whole experience that I crazily agreed with the proposition that the LTCB might be interested in a quote for her about-to-expire motor insurance. No, I don’t know what made me do it, either. I think that the queuing must work like water boarding or sleep deprivation in breaking down resistance. To obtain this unwanted information, one of the handful of counter clerks gleefully put up a “position closed” sign and moved to a computer terminal on the other side of the establishment. Those remaining in the queue were too demoralized even to groan, or to shout “Oh, for f***’s sake!” as I would undoubtedly have done in their position.

The pointless quote took some time to produce, owing to a malfunctioning printer, but I finally walked out into the street with all the expected pieces of paper in my hand, feeling like an old lag being released from HMP Chester after a reasonably long stretch for robbery with violence. I looked at my watch and it read 2.40, which was a pleasant surprise until I worked out that the sodding thing had stopped again, doubtless bored into catatonia by the whole experience, and that the real time was 2.57. So that was forty whole minutes of my life wasted, which is no small matter when you have little more than 1,200 days left.

I went to Marks & Spencer and bought myself some new boxer shorts, despite the dire warnings from Jeremy Paxman still ringing in my ears, and was diverted on my way back by a new sign erected on the main road for the Curmudgeon’s Arms, designed to tempt passing trade down its obscure side street with lines like “Strict Entry Code: Family Hostile – Dog Friendly.” I wonder how effective it is?

As I walked across river (on a bridge, I have my limitations), at a few minutes past three, numerous ghastly products of the local Bog Standard Comprehensive were already loping in the opposite direction, the only signs of animation in their brain-dead faces being the fags blazing between most of their lips. Three of them tore out of a side road on their bikes as I approached the junction for the LTCB’s street, and swore and made obscene gestures at the driver of the slow-moving car who had the temerity to sound his horn as he braked savagely to avoid them. How I would have loved to be a witness for the defence if he had mown one or more of them down. In fact, I would have had the gravest difficulty in restraining myself from shaking him by the hand and offering to buy him a pint. Some half-baked, bespectacled tit in shiny trousers was standing by the school gates instructing the brats to take care as they poured out into the road. He looked barely older than they were, but I deduced from the contemptuous way in which
they were completely ignoring him that he must be a member of the staff. The poor sod. I expect he must have sinned grievously in an earlier life.

The interesting question, if the brats at the comprehensive are let out as early as 3, is what they do all day? I envisage a typical day comprising:

9:00: Cheek
9.40: Home economics (watching a Jamie Oliver DVD)
10.20: Computer games
11.00: Smoking
11.20: Self-abuse
12.00: Smoking, drinking, chip-eating and terrorizing the elderly
1.40: Media studies (watching a porn DVD)
2.20: Teenage pregnancy (discussion and practical)

Yes, that should do it nicely. Why do discussions of euthanasia always focus on the old, when there are so many much more deserving cases among the young?

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